The aim of this study was to examine the location of serotonin immunoreactive boutons on both the soma and dendrites of neurons in the dorsal respiratory group by using a combination of intracellular recording and labelling and immunohistochemistry. Inspiratory neurons in the ventrolateral nucleus of the solitary tract (vl‐NTS) were intracellularly labelled with horseradish peroxidase (HRP) in anaesthetised adult cats. The morphology of 23 neurons, all antidromically activated from the contralateral C3 spinal segment, was examined. Six neurons displayed pronounced dendritic arborizations outside the vl‐NTS, with prominent dorsal and/or medial projections. The dendrites of the remaining neurons were almost entirely confined to the vl‐NTS. Intramedullary axon collaterals were detected in four of nineteen examined axons. Serotoninergic fibres were immunohistochemically demonstrated in the NTS, and the apposition of immunoreactive boutons to the HRP‐filled neurons examined at the light microscopic level. Boutons were identified in close apposition with the somata, proximal and distal dendrites of these neurons. However, the density of contacts was found to be substantially less than in a previous study of phrenic motoneurons (Lipski et al: Soc. Neurosci. Abst. 14:379, '88; Pilowsky et al: J. Neurosci. in press, '90). The relative paucity of contacts of serotonin immunoreactive boutons with premotor inspiratory neurons of the dorsal respiratory group indicates that the serotoninergic system affects respiratory pathways mainly at the level of respiratory motoneurons or at brainstem sites outside the vl‐NTS.
- intracellular labelling
- nucleus of the solitary tract
- respiratory control